Ecclesiastes 11 Commentary Meaning

Now, we move on to chapter 11 for our Ecclesiastes 11 Commentary. And in this chapter, the Preacher in the first six verses gives us some good sound financial advice. And the advice is given in light of the unpredictability of life…

Business Advice

11:1 Cast [send] thy bread [grain] upon the waters [overseas]: for thou shalt find it [like what Christ says, in the sense that you’ll be paid for the cost of the grain and much more] after many days.

So, don’t horde your grain – if you’re a farmer. Take some calculated risk. Sending grain overseas would have come with some definite risks in Old Testament times. But the reward would have been well worth it.

Continuing with his financial advice…

2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight [7 or 8 what? investments!]; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

So, there’s the element of unpredictability. Who knows what evil will be on the earth? And therefore, diversify your investments. Because if evil hits one of those investments, the others might still be protected. But if you have all your investments in one place and evil strikes that one place, then all you had is gone.

And you never know where disaster or prosperity will strike. I think that’s the message of verse 3…

3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

So, in this verse, clouds would indicate blessings and the falling tree would indicate disaster. And both of these events are portrayed as unpredictable. The clouds empty when they are full of rain. But who can tell when that will happen? Not even our modern-day weather forecasters. And trees fall sometimes without notice. And wherever they might fall – that’s where they will lie. And there’s nothing you or I can do to change that fact.

In other words, you can’t change some factors that influence financial success or failure. The best you and I can do is try to mitigate the risks. And the Preacher advises diversifying your investments because of this fact.

But don’t let all that risk scare you off. That would not be wise, according to verse 4…

4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

So, if you pay attention to the wind – the wind that might blow over that tree we just talked about – the thing that brings the disaster that you’re trying to avoid – you won’t sow.

Or if you pay attention to the clouds that promise to bring blessings on an agricultural society… you won’t reap. You’ll hope for more rain. Either way, if you pay too much attention to the potential of risk or reward – you will be moved to inactivity!

Why? Because we are finite. We cannot possibly take into account every possibility. We can’t imagine the way that God might move in our life…

5 ¶ As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit [path of the wind], nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

Why does trying to get every possible advantage in life so often not work? Why does trying to avoid every single risk in life not work? What is it about trying to do these things that moves a person to inactivity? It’s our limitations. You don’t know the works of God. And that’s just like you don’t understand the path of the wind or how bones grow in the womb – especially before the advent of ultrasound.

So, you don’t understand how God makes things to work – especially how to avoid all risk and how to benefit from every reward. And therefore, the Preacher advises you this way…

6 ¶ In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

So, just keep working. Work hard. Be diligent. Work in the morning – that might bring some success. Work in the evening. Maybe that will be successful. Just be wise and engage in business and diversify your investments to try to minimize risk. But know that ultimately you can’t avoid all possible risk and you can’t reap all potential reward.

And with that, the Preacher will start to address a topic that will occupy him for the rest of this book. It’s the topic of death. And in verses 7 through 10 the Preacher advises younger people to rejoice in their youth, knowing what’s coming…

Rejoice in Youth, Knowing What’s Coming

7 ¶ Truly the light is sweet [pleasant or agreeable], and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold [see] the sun:

The reality is that light and the sun are pleasant. It’s good to be alive. That’s the idea of seeing the Sun, I think. And while you have the light, rejoice in the light. Enjoy your youth – because darkness is coming…

8 ¶ But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

As long as you live, rejoice! But, again, the Preacher wants us to consider our mortality and respond wisely in light of our imminent death. Days of darkness are coming. And the Preacher says that they will be many. The worst years of life. The hardest years of life. They’re coming for each and every one of us. And in this sin-cursed world, the end of life is vanity – it’s fleeting and passing and temporary. There’s nothing permanent about life under the Sun.

And because of that, rejoice in your youth, soberly…

9 ¶ Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

So, enjoy your current life in light of the difficult days ahead. Follow your heart. Follow your eyes. And if we left it there, we’d be hedonists. We’d be advocating self-indulgence – the existence of which the Preacher just lamented a few verses ago! And that’s where the Preacher’s last statement comes in – remember that God will judge you for everything you do. That’s the great balance. Enjoy life to the fullest. And also remember God’s coming judgement.

So, the Preacher concludes with verse 10…

10 ¶ Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity [fleeting].

And we all in this room are pretty well past childhood and youth. Some of us are in the prime of life. And for those kinds of folks, the Preacher says – enjoy it while you can. Really, enjoy it. But really, do it while you can.

Because in chapter 12 next week we’ll hear less about the days of one’s youth and prime of life – and we’ll hear a lot more about the fleeting days of darkness that are coming.

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